Well, that may be changing. Earlier this year, ICANN announced that it would accept applications for thousands of new top-level domain names to add to the few, like “.com” or “.org,” that we’re all familiar with. Last month, ICANN released the list of applicants for names such as “.apps,” “.blog,” “.music,” and “.books.” As this report from NPR explains, the organization received 1,930 such applications for which it charged $185,000 each. Thus, it’s no surprise that big corporations like Google, with 101 applications, and Amazon, with 76, dominated the process.
At $185,000 each, 1,930 applications adds up to $357 million. That’s a lot of money for a non-profit to be raking in. In fact, this bonanza looks more like a Pentagon earmark than a can-do, high-tech, do-good venture.
Who are the people behind ICANN? How do they spend these and other funds that they get for being the designated monopoly player controlling the Internet?
Curiously, the otherwise comprehensive NPR report, after citing critics who fear possible abuses of the new domain naming system, says only that “ICANN insists that won’t happen.” But NPR names no one at ICANN, let alone quotes anyone by name.
The list of ICANN’s board and its executives is public on its website, and Internet trade blogs have provided a lot of coverage of ICANN and the proposed expansion of the top-level domain names. Some of it even spilled into the general press last week—such as this Associated Press report about a fiasco surrounding how the $185,000 domain name applications would be reviewed. It seems that to determine the order in which the applications would be considered, the clever folks at ICANN devised what to this reader was an incomprehensible contest called “digital archery.” However, the whole thing crashed, and the contest was canceled because of technical glitches that the spinners at ICANN called “unexpected results.” They offered no further elaboration.
Who knows - maybe a look at how ICANN works and what it’s doing with that $357 million would make our Washington bureaucracies look good.
3. The DC power outage—how utilities skimp on maintenance crews:
In the wake of the prolonged power outages following last week’s severe thunderstorms in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, I hope someone will revisit this story idea from last November about local utilities paring down their own maintenance crews and making deals with other utilities to share crews from across North America when there’s an emergency. Yesterday morning I heard the CEO of PEPCO, the DC-area electric company, casually explain the delays in an interview on CNN by saying that full power restoration awaited the arrival of borrowed crews from as far away as Canada. It was as if no longer having enough local workers on hand was as much an act of God as the storms.
Editor’s note: The April 3 installment of this column called for a story exploring “How did Research In Motion, which produces the BlackBerry, get away with a lagging product offering and obviously unworkable corporate governance for so long?” On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal published a story addressing those very questions in detail.